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California Mill Fire kills 2; neighbors say 1 victim in Weed

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Click the arrow below for more information on the Mill Fire burning in Northern California.

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Two people were killed in the Mill Fire, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said Sunday.

“We have lost two people in this fire,” LaRue solemnly announced at a community meeting in Montague.

Their deaths mean six people have died in wildfires this summer in California, all of them in Siskiyou County. Four died in the McKinney Fire in July.

The sheriff did not provide details about the victims. But residents of the Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Weed, where the fire caused most of its initial damage Friday afternoon, said they believed at least one person died in the blaze.

the Mill and mountain fires continued to punish the county on Sunday. The two fires have burned nearly 20 square miles, destroyed up to 100 homes and still threaten hundreds more as California’s mammoth heat wave continues to turn much of Northern California into firewood.

The Mill Fire, which started in the Siskiyou County town of Weed on Friday, had burned 4,254 acres and was 25% contained as of early Sunday, Cal Fire reported.

The fire injured at least three civilians, burned 50 structures and threatened 411 others, Cal Fire says. At least 1,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, and the nonprofit Rescue Ranch dog facility in Yreka said it had taken in 90 dogs, 71 of them on Friday in less than six hours.

Weed Mayor Kim Greene has said the damage may be greater, with reports of at least 100 homes destroyed, many in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood. Cal Fire says 132 structures “have been affected” and ground crews will work Sunday to survey damaged areas and confirm actual losses.

Although containment was officially 25%, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Kent Cunningham said firefighters had made good progress building containment lines on the west and north sides of the fire perimeter. “The fire currently stands at its current footprint,” he said at Sunday’s community meeting, a statement that drew considerable applause.

MOUNTAIN FIRE 0902
Firefighters continue to work on the Mountain Fire in Siskiyou County, seen burning along Gazelle Callahan Road on Friday, September 2, 2022. The fire had burned 6,541 acres and was 5% contained, Cal Fire said in a Sunday morning update. jonathan rivas Special for the bee

Mill Fire Map

This live update map shows the location of the Mill Fire, on the right, and the Mountain Fire, with heat detection satellite data for hot spots. Click the legend button for more information.

Sources: US Department of the Interior, IRWIN, NIFC, NASA, NOAA, and Esri

On Sunday, Siskiyou County firefighters turned their attention to the Mountain Fire, which started Friday afternoon 10 miles northwest of the Mill Fire and outside the community of Gazelle. Firefighters were working Sunday to secure lines around the north and west flanks of the fire, Cal Fire Capt. Matt Ryan said at an operational briefing.

That fire was at 8,460 acres and 10% containment on Sunday afternoon. There were 690 structures threatened and 332 people evacuated.

On Sunday afternoon, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office expanded evacuation orders to include two more areas to the southwest of Gazelle: Areas 2334B and 2331A in Zonehaven. Residents of both areas were directed to take Highway 3 towards Yreka.

Hot and dry fire conditions in Northern California

Firefighters were concerned about winds that could push the flames and hurl embers onto the drought-stricken landscape. Temperatures were expected to climb into the mid-90s for the next two days, and as high as 103 degrees by Tuesday. Firefighters, however, said during a community meeting Sunday that winds remained calm and forecasters were expecting only light breezes through Wednesday.

Extremely dry conditions had firefighters nervous. “All of those fuels have been baking in the sun,” said Troy Velin, a fire behavior analyst for Cal Fire.

On Sunday morning in Gazelle, where an evacuation warning remained in effect, Dawnia Deegan, 51, sat in the front yard with her sister and brother-in-law, Dania and Brian Landis, drinking coffee and watching convoys of trucks from firefighters and heavy equipment. make your way to and from the Fire of the Mountain, which burns in the hills to the west of the city.

She works at a gas station in Weed, but has been forced to stay home due to a power outage in that corner of town.

The last two nights he has been watching the orange glow of the fire and hoping for the best.

“We have our bags packed,” he said. “If they tell us we have to leave, we will.”

Where did the Mill Fire start?

Weed officials said the Mill Fire started Friday in a warehouse in an unused portion of the Roseburg Forest Products mill that was scheduled for demolition, though Cal Fire officials have not said how or where the fire started.

Roseburg spokeswoman Rebecca Taylor said Sunday that Cal Fire is investigating the mill property and “we are fully cooperating in that investigation.”

On Sunday, two days after the fire prompted Weed’s frantic evacuation, wisps of smoke still billowed from the tangled beams and twisted sheet metal of the dilapidated warehouse. Crime scene tape had been placed along Railroad Avenue, which heads north into the dilapidated Lincoln Heights neighborhood, just east of the mill property.

Debbie Cummins, who has lived on Alamo Avenue across the train tracks from the Roseburg property since 1988, said her neighborhood was thrown into chaos Friday when the department store caught fire as the wind howled.

“I heard the sound of a pop and everything,” he said on Saturday. “And then pretty soon the wind starts blowing, and the wind and the smoke and everything started going that way.” He pointed left, toward Highway 97 and Lincoln Heights.

roseburg.JPG
A destroyed warehouse smolders on Saturday, September 3, 2022, on the property of Roseburg Forest Products in Weed, Calif., one day after the Mill Fire swept through the adjacent Lincoln Heights neighborhood. ryan sablow rsabalow@sacbee.com

Power outages in Siskiyou

City officials declared a state of emergency on Saturday and were working to get food from a local grocery store to evacuees. Governor Gavin Newsom also declared a state of emergency to help with the response effort.

Weed residents had been without power since Friday, but Pacific Power said as of Saturday morning it had restored power to about 75% of its customers.

The utility said 2,697 customers remain without power and crews may need up to 48 hours to restore power. And other services were still lacking; Brian Schenone, director of the county Office of Emergency Services, said cell service is still down in much of the area.

“We’re getting used to this,” he said at the community meeting in Montague. “Here we are, back to another incident.”

This story was originally published September 4, 2022 8:20 a.m.

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Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of topics, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.

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